La Mesa woman shares proactive breast surgery story with 10News

Woman had same BRCA1 gene as Angelina Jolie

A La Mesa woman who tested positive for the BRCA1 gene is talking to 10News about her decision to undergo a proactive double mastectomy.

You could say that Holly Weber now feels a special kinship with actress Angelina Jolie.

Jolie, in a New York Times op-ed posted Tuesday, wrote that she had a preventive double mastectomy after finding out she carried the BRCA1 gene that makes it highly likely she would get breast cancer.

Like Jolie, Weber tested positive for BRCA1, a gene mutation which increased her risk of breast cancer, prompting her to proactively remove both of her breasts.

"I opted to not live a life of anxiety or fear and my thought was that I feared cancer and chemo more that I did this surgery," Weber told 10News.

But that was more than 10 years ago, when she says the surgery was considered extreme and radical.

"(There was) not a person I could look to and say, 'Hey, have you done this?'" she said. "I'd even asked my doctors who were performing the surgeries if they could refer me to previous patients and I was their first."

With her family history, she felt it was not a matter of "if" but "when" she would get breast cancer. 

Weber's maternal grandmother died from breast cancer at the age of 55. Her own mother was diagnosed at 47.

"Once my mom had tested positive for the gene, I knew I had a 50 percent chance of also carrying that same gene," she said. "With my family history, I knew what I was facing. I had watched people suffer in my family."

Weber had the genetic test at age 31 at UC San Diego Medical Center and tested positive for BRAC1. It is a test that her 19-year-old daughter may someday choose to undergo as well.

Not long after her test, Weber decided then to have both of her breasts removed by choice.

"I recognize it may not be that easy for some, but it just was for me," she said.

Two years later, her younger sister was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 34.

"She had found her own lump and within a couple of months, had the same surgery ultimately anyway. Not by her choice," Weber added.

After reading Jolie's op-ed, Weber is hopeful that more women will want to find out their family history through genetic testing and then do what is right for them.


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